Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Green-Student Guide

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Green-Student Guide

Article excerpt

"Just knowing that we are there is the biggest thing for them, especially in the beginning, so I make sure I'm proactive with my outreach and that I'm being consistent," says Loren Ellison, a new student success advisor at American Sentinel University--an online institution in Aurora, Colo.

According to an annual survey by Babson Survey Research Group, 6.1 million students took at least one online class during fall 2010--an online class being defined as a course where more than 80 percent of all content is delivered online, and there are typically no face-to-face meetings with instructors.

Of these millions of cyber scholars, about 3,000 chose to matriculate through Sentinel University.

The majority of Sentinel's students are adults aged 40 to 50. They are employed full-time or serve in the military. They have families to tend to and households to maintain. They chose to pursue an online education to earn first-time or higher degrees --primarily in nursing, information technology and business --to advance their career goals.

However, as driven as they are to move forward professionally, many lack the will to communicate openly about barriers that are likely to come up in a virtual learning space.

So, Sentinel has found a way to ease the burdens of each convert by pairing them with new student advisers like Ellison, who has a background in higher education and K-12 online learning. Before taking on the position as new student success advisor in July 2012, Ellison worked at one of Colorado's emerging online learning centers, where she virtually taught a variety of subjects to high school students.

After hearing about Sentinel's position from a friend, she decided to switch careers to try something new, while remaining in the education field and putting her knack for technology and creativity to use.

Now, Ellison's job is to put new students at ease, after they take their first step in enrolling through the university's admissions office.

"We get their information and a checklist with different risk levels to be aware of when going into our intro phone calls with students," says Ellison, describing the intake process of her 225-student caseload.

Ellison's position allows her access to students' online records to view their class papers, grades and overall progress with their courses, giving her specific information to address with each student.

Among the new recruits, Ellison has found their greatest need is to feel comfortable with the environment, as many of them do not use the Internet regularly and lack basic computer skills. …

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